Here was this week's challenge from Flash Fiction Friday.
She was built for comfort. She was build to last, to shelter generations of large families.
But, nothing is forever. Now her roof leaked, as did her basement. Her paint was peeling, the shutters sagged, the fireplace smoked, the floors creaked, and the windows and doors either wouldn't shut or wouldn't open.
She'd been empty for almost a year when a winter storm chased a family of gypsies her way, desperate for shelter. There were eight of them, ranging from grandma down to a newborn. They soon settled right in, laughing, cooking, singing, dancing. They planted a garden, swept out years of dirt, and started in on the repairs. The husband had shaken his head when he first did a tour, attic to basement. “You are a beautiful old girl,” he said. “How could people abandon you like this?”
It took months of work, but eventually she was restored to the beauty of her youth.
“This can't happen again,” he said. “You were there for us, now we must repay you. I'll get grandma to do something. It will be your little secret.”
They stayed for five years, then left for better jobs, out on the west coast. There were tearful goodbyes for their friend, but the For Sale sign was barely stuck in the ground when another large family was moving in. They too lovingly cared for her, and she for them. And, seven years later, another. Word had spread. She was no longer the ugly sister to be avoided, she was a princess to be sought after. And all through this, she was as beautiful as ever.
But tastes changed, families got smaller, and it became harder to attract as many as she used to. And they didn't last as long. She faded, no longer looking so fresh and new. She started leaking and peeling, sagging and creaking. This last family had weakened faster than ever. First grandpa turned sick and moved into a home, then their son came home from school with a cough and went straight to bed. And never got up—some new virus it was thought. The couple began to fight every day, and within a month they had split. Now it was just her and her owner, Sara.
“I just can't bear to leave here,” said Sara, “but I can't afford to keep you in the state you deserve. You need big families, with laughter and parties, with love and sorrow. I'll find that for you.”
True to her word, Sara sold at a loss to a huge family, full of energy and life. Within weeks of them moving in she sparkled again, and was once more the envy of the neighbourhood. She liked these new people, and hoped they all stayed. She needed a good crowd to draw on. A little bit of energy from each wouldn't be missed, but for her it added up to life.